The account in the Book of Genesis of how, several generations after the life of Adam, the wickedness of people made God regret that he had created them and made him resolve to send a flood that would destroy all the living creatures in the world. God decided to spare Noah and his family, who lived virtuously, and to allow them to repopulate the Earth. God commanded Noah to build an ark (a large, rudderless ship) and to take his wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law into it, along with a pair of each of the Earth's animals. When Noah had done so, God sent forty days and forty nights of rain, until the entire globe was flooded and all living creatures were drowned. When the rain ended, Noah released a dove from the ark. When it returned with an olive branch in its beak, Noah knew that the waters had receded and that he and his family could begin a new life. After the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, and Noah and the other people and animals left it, God set a rainbow in the heavens as a sign that he would never again destroy the world by flood.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.